Home owners in Burnham-On-Sea who lost money due to price-fixing by four Burnham-On-Sea estate agents may be able to claim compensation, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has said.

As first reported here last week, Greenslade Taylor Hunt, Abbott and Frost Limited, Gary Berryman Estate Agents and its parent company Warne Investments Limited, and West Coast Property Services, were fined a total of £372,233 for colluding to set a minimum commission rate of 1.5 per cent for properties in the Burnham-On-Sea area. The four companies have all admitted to price fixing.

CMA spokeswoman Rebecca Cassar told Burnham-On-Sea.com this week: “Once the CMA has issued a final decision, any members of the public that have lost out would be able to rely on the decision to prove the breach of competition law and seek compensation from the businesses concerned, if necessary by taking court action. The price-fixing agreement which the estate agents have admitted started in February 2014 and lasted just over a year.”

Burnham-On-Sea.com asked the CMA whether the funding from the estate agents’ fines may be put towards community projects in the town.

The spokeswoman responded: “All the money from the fines we issue is paid to the Treasury. This is done, in part, so that as an independent body we have no incentive other than the enforcement of the law for pursuing our enforcement work.”

The CMA’s Stephen Blake, a senior director for cartel enforcement at the organisation, said in a statement: “Moving home is expensive and this shouldn’t be made worse by estate agents conspiring to deny their customers the best possible deal, by agreeing not to compete on fees.”

“Price-fixing cheats customers, and we are committed to tackling it regardless of the size of the businesses involved. We have taken action against estate agents before, and will do so again if firms break the law.”

The businesses involved agreed to settle with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) after a year-long investigation.

Another company, Annagram Estate Agents Limited (trading as ‘C J Hole’), will not be fined – as long as it continues to co-operate – as it was the first company to confess its participation in the cartel.

The CMA is also continuing to investigate the conduct of a further estate agent, Saxons PS Limited, which is not a party to the settlement. The CMA said no assumption should be made that Saxons PS Limited has infringed the law.